This afternoon we had a meeting with Elder Marcos Aidukaitis of the Area Presidency and Brother Stephen Peterson who is the head of the Church Welfare Department worldwide. There were about 15 people in the room including a new brother from Argentina who will just recently received the same calling as Fernando Souza but for the very south of SA. Elder Aidukaitis emphasized the payment of the fast offering but more than that, the power of fasting each month. He also wondered how many wards in Brazil actually have a qualified specialist who can train ward members in need how to be self sufficient. He said there should be a plan for each member involved. He can be really serious but then be really funny. He lightened up the meeting a lot and at the same time taught us a lot.
Well, going back to our trip to Petrolina. When the meeting started night, I asked the bishops, relief society presidents and stake leaders how many of them were members of the Church before 1971 (the year I arrived in Brazil as a missionary). Not one single member raised their hand. That is an example of the growth of the Church here in every corner of the country. The stake president said, "I wasn't even born then." Mom spoke and then we did our slide presentation. I asked a lot of questions and had a microphone going around so people could answer and be heard. It seemed to work out well. I started to tell the story that President Oliveira had related to me about a sister who was raising three grandchildren on her own, her husband out of work, and wondering what she could do to bring in some income. She prayed and prayed and when she heard about the 'quail project', she said, "I can do that." Well, President Oliveira tapped me and said, "Elder, she is here tonight." So I called on her and she graciously stood and bore her testimony again about her experience.
We spent all day visiting members who have already built their little quail living spaces (viveiros). Many are using a room attached to their home or a bedroom to convert into a quail coop. Imagine yourselves doing that in your homes. That is how desperate many people are and they will sacrifice to be able to make some income. So many are unemployed. We went into one home and a sister who is mom's age answered the door and invited us in. Seated at the computer and doing her best to use it was a sister in her 30s who looked like she had probably been born with cerebral palsy, but that was not the case. She fell from a hammock as a baby and it damaged her brain and spinal cord to the extent that she is paralyzed from the waist down and poor muscular control of her arms and hands. She was delighted for us to visit. I hope we get to go back there. They had a room already to go for their quail. I found out that the older sister was President Oliveira's mother-in-law. Later in the car, I asked him where the husband was and he said, "That is a sad story." The husband had one failure after another and finally committed suicide. It had only been a year and a half ago. Anyway, we got real close to all those families and we are going to work hard for them so they can have a chance to be self-sufficient again. Well, mom already talked a lot about this so I won't go on. though, we both bore our testimonies and after, a little girl came up to me and said, "Are you the temple president." Made me feel good. One other little girl at a home we visited was having her birthday and I quietly slipped a R$10.00 into her hand and said, "I forgot to buy you a present so maybe you can get a treat with this." She was my very best friend for the rest of the time we were there. Love these people and would do anything for them. I love all of you and the support you give to us. We do need and appreciate your prayers.